Saturday, 28 March 2015

James Stokoe returns to send Godzilla to Hell in new IDW mini-series


IDW's and James Stokoe's 2012 Godzilla: The Half Century War mini-series was instrumental in making me love the character once more, in addition to being a superb comic in and of itself. While the publisher puts out a regular Godzilla -I believe monthly- book, this newly-announced 5-issue mini-series sounds like it could be something special, partly because it sees the king of monsters in previously uncharted territory: Hell! Set to release in July, it finds Godzilla suddenly plunged into the deepest bowels of Hell, where he must survive amongst unspeakable horrors, attempt to discover what has led to his damnation, and whether there is any hope of salvation. The premise of this sounds like the kind of out there crazy that has the potential to sweep you along and work really well, or fall flat; I really hope it's the former. Although it does raise questions like: does Godzilla have a soul?

What's particularly enticing about this mini-series is that it will see a rotating team of artists and writers work on different issues, as Godzilla works his way through the various levels of Hell, with none other than blog-favourite James Stokoe returning to author the first issue. I personally prefer Stokoe's work when he's working on licensed properties, and as his Avengers 100 special issue showed last year, he's more than capable of producing something exceptional even in a single issue, so to see him back on Godzilla, a character he's previously done such excellent work on, is fantastic news, and well worth looking forward to. 'Drawing Godzilla must be my comfort food, because it feels really great to come back and work on pages with IDW again,' said Stokoe. 'Also, the list of amazing creators they've tapped for this series beyond my issue feels equally great as a fan, especially with the theme everyone gets to play with. You can't get much bigger than Godzilla versus Hell!'

Successive issue will see writer/artists Bob Eggleton and Dave Wachter take on an issue, with writers Ulises Farinas, and Erick Freitas, together on issue #3 and Brandon Seifert, tackling issue #4; artists on those issues will be announced at a later date. Multiversity have an exclusive look at the Jeff Zornow's EC variant cover, which looks amazing.

Monday, 23 March 2015

ELCAF unveil poster by Jillian Tamaki, announce venue -and guests


Tickets for the East London Comics and Arts Festival -ELCAF- go live today. The event has been expanded to 2 days this year for the first time, being held on the 20th and 21st of June from 10am to 7pm, after growing quickly in the four years since its inception; tickets for one day will cost £3 as per previous prices and £5 for entry on both days. Interestingly, the venue has also been split into two, taking place across The Laundry and Space in Hackney, with the idea that all the pressure won't be on one space, in a bid to avoid queuing. The venues are close to each other, not more than a couple of minutes walk, which seems like a good idea- Thought Bubble and other festivals take the same approach and it works well. Also unveiled today was this years poster, designed by artist in residence, Jillian Tamaki. It's also revealing in that it tells us what other guests will be attending alongside Tamaki: Michael DeForge, Max, Brecht Vandenbroucke, Daniela Olejnikova, Arnal Ballester, Henning Wagenbreth. No doubt prints of the poster will be available to buy on the day, with full programming for all events and further guests to be posted on the website very soon. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Comics & Cola will return in April

A quick note to say there won't be any further posts for March, but Comics & Cola will be back as normal in April. I'll still be reviewing one comic a week over at The AV Club, along with some other pieces- I'll link to them on my Twitter and Facebook for anyone interested. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Ricardo Delgado returns with more beautiful dinosaur tales in new Age of Reptiles mini-series


My love for all things dinosaur is well established, but a mere glance at these pages from Ricardo Delgado (provided exclusively to CBR) will allow you to determine that the beauty and artistry of his work transcends subject matter. Delgado began producing his glorious, silent Age of Reptiles series with Dark Horse in 2009, winding back the years to follow various beasts before the existence of man: tracking seasons, migration journeys, families, survival, and more. The series proved popular, winning him an Eisner award, and Delgado went on to expand it, creating further stories: Age of Reptiles, Age of Reptiles: Tribal Warfare, Age of Reptiles: The Hunt, and Age of Reptiles: The Journey, all of which were later collected into one omnibus volume in 2011. There have been a couple of hints that Delgado may return with new Age of Reptiles comics: he contributed a couple of short stories to the Dark Horse Presents anthology, and Dark Horse officially announced details of a new mini-series yesterday.

The four part mini-series Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians, moves to Africa, and old spinosauraus (the big one with the snout and sail) will be making an appearance: 'The steaming swamps of Cretaceous Africa teem with prehistoric life and primordial danger in a tale filled with villains, victims, and one of the most dangerous and unpredictable protagonists ever created: the lonely anti-hero Spinosaurus Aegypticus!' Issue #1 will be 32 pages in length and goes on sale the 3rd of June. Delgado wrote an interesting piece for CBR to accompany the announcement, where he talks about his creative inspiration, film -namely westerns- and issues of representation; he's Costa Rican- nothing about dinosaurs, or the comic really, but well worth a read. Really excited to see this back; the pages here look fantastic.

Slate announce third annual Cartoonist Studio Prize nominations

Beautiful Darkness by Kerascoet

The shortlists for the third annual Cartoonist Studio prize, founded by Slate and the Center for Cartoon Studies, have been announced. This year, the shortlist was chosen by Slate book review editor, Dan Kois, the faculty and student body at the Center for Cartoon Studies, represented by CCS Fellow Sophie Yanow, and guest judge, cartoonist Paul Karasik. The Slate prize is nice and simple, with two categories: best print comic, and best web-comic. The winner of each prize receives $1000; previous winners have been Chris Ware and Taiyo Matsumoto in the print category, and Noelle Stevenson and Emily Carroll for best web-comic. The prize is one of the few in comics to recognise web-comics, and do so correctly (not lumping them in with digital comics), and also one of the few with a monetary award, which I would imagine is very nice.

Jillian Tamaki continues to have an outstanding year with nominations in both categories for This One Summer, co-authored by Mariko Tamaki, and SuperMutant Magic Academy. The print category manages to fit in all the hard-hitters of last year, with Beautiful Darkness, Here, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, The Love Bunglers, and more. I would think Richard McGuire's Here would be the undeniable choice there, but would really like to see Beautiful Darkness pick up some recognition. This years winners will be announced in April. A full list of  the nominees can be found below.

Best Print Comic:
  • Arsene Schrauwen, Olivier Schrauwen, Fantagraphics
  • Beautiful Darkness, Fabien Vehlmann and Kerasco√ęt (Drawn and Quarterly)
  • Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Roz Chast (Bloomsbury)
  • Here, Richard McGuire (Pantheon)
  • The Hospital Suite, John Porcellino (Drawn and Quarterly)
  • How to Be Happy, Eleanor Davis (Fantagraphics)
  • An Iranian Metamorphosis, Mana Neyestani (Uncivilized Books)
  • The Love Bunglers, Jaime Hernandez (Fantragraphics)
  • This One Summer, Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki (First Second)
  • Truth is Fragmentary, Gabrielle Bell (Uncivilized Books)

Best Web Comic:
  • Bikram Addict, Eroyn Franklin
  • Carriers, Lauren R. Weinstein
  • Dear Amanda, Cathy G. Johnson.
  • The Hole the Fox Did Make, Emily Carroll.
  • Hollow, Part I, Sam Alden.
  • How San Francisco Sold a Majority Stake to Tech, Susie Cagle
  • Nod Away, Joshua W. Cotter.
  • Oh Joy Sex Toy! Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan.
  • SuperMutant Magic Academy, Jillian Tamaki.
  • Watching, Winston Rowntree.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Lorenzo Ghetti's 'To Be Continued' attempts to reapproach the webcomic




I'm often conscious of the manner in which I can describe comics with regards to enthusiasm: most of the things I write about I find interesting in some capacity, or I'm engaged with on some level, therefore one of the things I'm trying to move away from is hyperbole- like this comic is the greatest, the worst, the last word and so forth, in a losing effort to not descend into boring cliche for those words to regain their actual meaning. It can be difficult to do; those descriptors have become shorthand really; most people would agree when that when you say something's great, you don't actually mean that: you mean it's very good- give or take an extra very. 

Preamble over, Lorenzo Ghetti's To Be Continued is a comic I find interesting -more so or with what it tries to do with the webcomic platform than the actual content- although that's not poor by any means. Ghetti is an Italian cartoonist, involved in Bianca Bagnaerlli's Delebile imprint- I remember reviewing Myriad, a sci-fi effort he produced in collaboration with Ugo Schiesaro, early last year. The story of To Be Continued comes encased in superficially familiar clothing: in a world in which each country has its own superheroes, their position rather like famous musicians plus additional disaster/crime prevention, kids with powers enroll at a special school designed to hone their talents. Ostensibly, the narrative focuses more on these young adults growing up, forming relationships, and generally learning to deal with their hopes and doubts and frustrations. The comic updates every Wednesday, and readers can select from a few languages, including English, thanks to a translation courtesy of  Mauro Nanfit√≤.

Ghetti's obviously put a lot of thought into how to manipulate the web form and present the comic in a more dynamic, fresh way instead of the traditional read the page, read the next page linear fashion, bringing on board Carlo Trimarchi, who's designed and constructed the site. It's very interactive, leaning towards motion comic space- there's some animated facets, incorporated videos, speech bubbles pop up as you scroll, giving the appearance of immediacy. Clicking on next arrows doesn't merely take you to the next page, but the next section, moving within the same room or area, zooming in and bringing forward images or back, in from the left or right. For example, one panel will focus on the character talking in the foreground, and clicking on the next arrow will zoom in, moving past that panel to bring the background and what's going on there into focus. This is put to nice use when George is going through the oral exam for entry into the school of powers, facing and addressing the reader as if we're the judging board, with Ghetti switching between him answering the questions and producing demonstrations of his powers to the kids in the background bickering and bitching about him.

Ghetti uses the infinite space of the scrolling screen to move his characters around, requiring the reader to navigate left and right, up and down all whilst on the same 'page.' A page starts in the top left with panels of characters talking at eye levels and then switches perspectives to an aerial, bird's eye view as they walk out of the room and down the  corridor to lunch, all the while following their conversation, before dropping back down. He doesn't use  a great deal of panels or borders which makes it less anchored to specific time and place, and offers varying angles - one scene sees events unfurl as the characters watch a live TV news report, seated with their back to the reader, so bits of the TV are visible: people walk in and out of frame, reacting to what's happening. It's not 100% niggle free or intuitive, but it's worth spending some time playing around with, and  I like the attempt at something different, especially as I'm of the thinking that the web-comic format should be explored further to see what (accessibility aside) it can provide as an experience and medium that print can't. Boulet, Emily Carroll, Jen Lee and Zac Gorman are the only artists who come to mind in experimenting with interactivity, and all their work is excellent. It'll be interesting to see if and how the platform progresses and develops.

You can start reading To Be Continued here.




Missy by Daryl Seitchik

A new installment of Missy by Daryl Seitchik. New Missy will publish here every fortnight. Previous installments can be found here.


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Zine watch: fashion, style, magical girls, coffee, feathers: dreams all






















Ryan Cecil Smith self-publishes the bulk of his work, and what I like most about it is that he pays as much attention to the comic/zine as a product in and of itself; print as an object,  as well as how that interacts with the material and content within. It means that by now he's become an expert at crafting each individual work, and it's in a class of it's own at the moment. Comics and zines are ingrained in DIY culture, and while on the one hand that equates to accessibility in making, it's not always to be conflated with cheap, or a lack of thought and care with regards to design and aesthetic. Style and Fashion Zine, the first in what Smith intends to be a monthly zine, is another gorgeous production with a navy, gold-embossed half-cut protective cover (under which the full cover lies), and special needle-and-thread binding. 

In his introduction, Smith talks about how he's been inspired by people-watching in Japan where he lives; observing the effort and care which people pay in presenting themselves, and appreciating getting to see this kaleidoscope of clothes and fashions and colours. There's something unique in style and clothes in that they can serve as an extension or facet of identity and personality, as a means of identifying yourself with groups or subcultures or professions- you can construct an deconstruct something via clothes. Here, Smith and Graeme McNee record some of the many people, fashions and trends they see around them, almost as an homage to street fashion, and those who make you look twice.



I love this zine so much: I enjoy looking at clothes and styles anyway, but here the alternative presentation from commercial fashion is nice- it's not telling you what to wear or avoid, what you should buy, but revelling in those who take the time to put themselves together in a specific way. There's lots of detail and annotations to pore over: materials, patterns, cuts, accessories, shoes, and Cecil Smith is really good at incorporating environment and place which he sees as intrinsically linked with Japanese expression by way of fashion. It gives you a greater feel for the people and the spaces in which these observations are taking place; the people are part of the place and vice versa, and that's reflected in  their clothes somewhat. So you've got coffee shop interiors on which little figures are walking, double page architectural spreads of buildings- I'm not sure but those minimal lines may be McNee, whose simple outline shapes (seen above) are reminiscent of cutout cardboard 'dress up' dolls, and offset and balance Smith's more energetic, loose textures really well. 

I like too, that all ages are represented, not just a specific spectrum. There's a 'what's trending' section: chester coats, chelsea boots, overalls, rucksacks, black wide brimmed hats, wearing your knit cap on the tippy top of your head, collar bling. There's a style spotlight feature on a man who works at a clothes store which focuses on how friendly and welcoming he always is. Most of all I like that other people's creativity and pleasure in their clothes has led to more creativity and obvious enjoyment on Smith and McNee's behalf, which trickles down to the reader. 

Your interest level in this probably correlates with your interest in fashion (otherwise buy something called fashion and style zine); I definitely enjoy looking at what other people and sometimes attempting to translate it to something I could perhaps emulate in my own way. I used to pay a lot more attention to what I wear -I was more into prettier things at one pint- lace, floral, embellishments- and it definitely helped make me feel more confident about myself, and still does when I put in the time and effort; paying attention to yourself in any way generally makes you feel good, it's that simple. Today I'm less about pretty, but more about slouchy or boxy shapes or clean lines (which is hard to achieve when you've got an arse stubbornly disproportionate to the rest of you). In the mornings I just want to pull on things and be at work.  I  think if you wear a hijab, outfits can be that much trickier to pull together- it's one more colour, or one more pattern to incorporate, and you'r losing the advantage of how a lot of colours would look against your colouring. so where pink looks and purples and reds look good against black hair, when it's covered the colours have only my face to bounce off of, which brings out all the wrong, unflattering tones. Clothes are something I've  been wanting to get back to again this year, and this has helped me along; I really hope Smith can continue with the zine-a-month idea. 



Steven Weismann's Mutiny on the Mousey is simply a perfectly conceived and executed little idea. Charming and tongue-in-cheek, the story of a young cat who excitedly embarks on a his very first voyage with Captain Joe the mouse (a distant cousin of his mother's, hmm) to see the world and make a better cat out of himself, only to find himself exploited and bullied at every turn. These events are narrated in epistolary/diary form, as cat finds himself subjected to further despair and hardship. The bright orange/turquoise/black colours are jaunty and eye-catching, while the little sketchy doodles accompanying the diary entries are expressively amusing.  The design and art is bold, the inscriptions in elaborate, fancy typeface adding comedic punch : 'rats' 'bottoms up!'. And all the while you wait for cat to realise that Captain Joe is actually much, much smaller than him (even though, to be honest, you have to admire Captain Joe's chutzpah)... So much fun, and the manner in which Weismann manages to pack in a whole, robust experience into a shorter format is superb.



What I love about Evah Fan's work is that its intensely visual, not in that there's a lot to look at in terms of hyper-detail or so forth, but that it relies solely on looking and absorbing: so in Seesaw Fidgets you have to work out what word the doodle represents, sort of like Pictionary. Her zines are often silent, or with one or two words that will play around with puns and visual connectivity and space, for which the reader has to fill in the blanks. Herring Fro Plum II is a mini-zine, small enough to sit in the palm of your hand -again the smallness of the physical object mirrors the quite whisper of the subject- which illustrates a chain of what in bigoted Britain is referred to as Chinese Whispers, but in the US, is, I believe called 'telephone' as a phrase gets contorted and misheard as it's passed on. Fan draws an image for each incarnation, often amusing and odd, as we journey from 'hearing problem' to 'surf jump mama.'

Coffee is an ode to the drink which seems to have taken over the world. I don't drink hot drinks (although I love the smell of hot chocolate and coffee); lots of people consider this deeply weird, especially in England where tea is king, but I'm very much okay with it. I don't get the fascination, but I'm able to appreciate the idea of fervent passion for anything, particularly food and drink. Fan's Coffee zine is one continuous narrative, the illustrations from page to page bound together by a spilling, flowing stream of the drink winding from one onto the next, connecting all these people, bound together by the commonality of their love for the drink, or the experience of it. Different people are shown imbibing it in various ways, as part of a morning routine, curled up with cats- even out in space. It's a lovely production, the cream, brown, and mocha colours giving it an elegant look.



The Greatest Gangster in the Galaxy by Benjamin Courtault and Tiger Man by Noa Snir
A couple of gorgeous new dream leporellos from one of my favourite endeavours- the Spanish project elmonstruodecoloresnotieneboca ('the monster of colours has no mouth'), who enlist artists to illustrate the transcribed dreams of school-children from around the world. These two complement each other nicely in relation to colour scheme, the blue, pinks and purples are all very harmonious. I find the blurred fuzziness of French artist Courtault's art appealing -and pink and white penguins waddling around!-, but the best part as always are the children's dreams- here's one from Marina: 'Today I dreamed that our food was shit. I ate and became transparent and when I went out to the street I saw nobody because all the people were transparent.' And another, more disturbing one: 'Today I dreamed that a man was in TV and he was shaving his skin with a knife. In the end he had no skin left.' Shared by 9 year old Maria. But I like that: that the dreams are relayed as they are, weird and surreal and strange and inexplicable, and the continuous, looping landscape of the leporello in capturing them all running into one another captures that really well.

Israeli artist Noa Snir's work is wonderful, lovely shapes and personality. For this leporello, the images are all one side, so you get a brilliant, long unfolding picture of what appears to be a very odd circus: pigs shooting at aliens in a galley, Betty Boop asleep in a tent, dancing cats, a monkey whizzing by on roller-skates, an ice-cream cone shaped candy stall. It's ready to be pinned straight onto a wall, and the fluorescent pink and black contrasts sharply enough to make it stand out without it being jarring. The children have very real dreams too (they're not exempt, sadly) as Vincent, 9, demonstrates with a grounding one-liner: 'Yesterday I dreamed that someone kissed my girlfriend.' But then in another, he dreamed he was a tiger-man, so I guess it's okay. I'm a huge fan of this project, and long may it, and chief organiser extraordinaire, Roger Omar, continue.




Emily Rand's In The Garden is another zine that's evidence of what you can do today with even small-scale self publishing. The pages are die-cut laminated and hand-sewn together along the spine with a red thread. Each one is a different shape and size, too, so together they form a unique layered, 3D effect, lending it texture and depth. The risographed greens are lovely and lush, and the blue cleverly used to pick out leaves and branches. It's another very simply idea, but pulled off right. It makes for a very tactile experience; as you open and turn each curved page, you feel as if you;re being further immersed in the shrubbery and foliage- you can imagine the sense of quiet, leaves and trees all around, stretching overhead -it really does create a lovely atmosphere. Amongst all this green is a small pop of colour: a red feather floating on the wind, which is what you follow from page to page to its destination. There's some fun topiary to see along the way, too. I believe Rand is making this into a series, with future titles including Under the Sea, In the Rainforest, and Above the Snowy Mountains, which I'd be more than happy to see. 



Another cool offering from the fine folk over in Sweden at Peow! Studio, Mathilde Kitteh's MGCL GRL refers to the Japanese anime and comics trope of girls who use magic, or mahou shoujo or majokko (so Wikipedia tells me). Now, I read pretty much anything, as even a brief perusal of this blog will indicate, but I really don't get/like stories with magic in them: they just don't do anything for me. I still enjoyed this, because Kitteh's art is very accomplished- she has a nice blend of that textured, cartoony realsim style going on, and some of the spreads are gorgeous. This is a faux--magazine from the magical world, with guides to help you ascertain what kind of familiar would be best suited to you, tips on where to get specific magical plants and ingredients, fashion spreads that help you best look the part, predictions for the day's events, and more. There's even a (fictional) interview with Sakura Kinomoto, from popular manga Cardcaptor Sakura, in which she discusses the triumphs, trials and tribulations of being a successful magical girl. It's very cool, fun thing, but it needs to be in the hands of the right person, as with all magical items. I appreciate that it's specific in vision and appeal, though, as are all the zines, here- I think that always pays off in creating a superior thing, and finding the audience that it will be of interest to.




Guillaume Singlein to publish first English-language book, 'PTSD,' with First Second


It's not due until 2017, but the knowing it's on its way is good news of itself: French artist Guillaume Singlein will be publishing his first English language book, P.T.S.D., with First Second. While that may seem rather far off, the good thing about First Second is that they're that rare beast of a reliable comics publisher and 99% of the time, their projected releases come out on time. P.T.S.D. tells the story of Jun, who returns home to a Hong-Kong style metropolis from a unpopular and failing war. Struggling to re-assimilate to civilian life, and grappling with post traumatic stress disorder, she's forced to navigate and confront her inner demons and arrive at some peace with her self. It's an intriguing set-up; I can't recall many books dealing with a female soldier's PTSD, or even a book dealing with the experience of being a female soldier. Couple that with Singelin's art, his mastery of light and atmosphere, and you've got an incredibly exciting proposition on your hands.

As regular readers will know, I am a big fan of Singelin's work: his series The Grocery, that amazing space illustration series, listing him as one of the 10 artists whose work I enjoyed most in 2014, and generally writing about his art in a drooling fashion as I'm unable to understand any French. In that last piece I wrote, 'I'm not making a wishes for 2015, but I hope upon hope that an English language publisher is working with him in some capacity, or looking into it.' So I am thrilled by this news. I hear a lot of criticism about First Second -most of it rather condescendingly seems to be that their catalogue appeals to young adults and children: boo! hiss!- but they publish some fabulous work with writers and artists I don't see anyone else picking up: The Divine by the Hanukas, the Last Man series, Penelope Bagieu's Exquisite Corpse, This One Summer, Farel Dalrymple's sublime The Wrenchies, in addition to lots more. As a comics fan, I'm grateful for what they do, and I think their range of books represents the medium well, too.


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Kickstart this: Chainmail Bikini, a rad female gaming comics anthology


Friends, as you know, I am not really a fan of Kickstarter --or indeed, crowdfunding in general. However, every now and again, a project will cross my path that is too enticing to pass up, and if said project is a comics anthology with a rad (Queen) Hellen Jo cover, then the question really does become moot. Chainmail Bikini is a 200+ page comics anthology edited by Hazel Newlevant, with all new stories about and by female gamers. With contributions from over 40 artists including Jane Mai, Annie Mok, Carey Pietsch, Aatmaja Pandya, Sophi Yanow, MK Reed, Yao Xiao, and more, the anthology covers all types of gaming from video games to table-top role-playing to collectible card games. The Kickstarter is launched today and is seeking $13,000 towards printing and other costs (there's a full breakdown of where the money's going on the page), and has already raised over $6000 of that goal. Gaming and comics are two a very large crossover interest groups, and with so many fantastic, high-quality artists involved, I've no doubt this will meet it's target a couple of times over at least. This article isn't so much a 'hey, let's get this funded,' as it is a 'look at this amazingly cool comics anthology you'll want to get.' The nitty gritty: you can get a pdf of the book for $10 and a physical copy for $25 (it's not clear, but there's an additional $15 charge for postage to anywhere in the world).

'The comics in Chainmail Bikini explore the real-life impact of entering a fantasy world, how games can connect us with each other and teach us about ourselves. Alliances are forged, dice get rolled, and dragons get slain! We believe that gaming should be open to all, regardless of gender. Chainmail Bikini shows that while women are not always the target market for gaming, they are a vital and thoroughly engaged part of it, and are eager to express their personal take as players, makers, and critics of games.'

You can find and pledge to the Chainmail Bikini page here (where you'll also be able to find details of extra rewards and tiers- there's a very nifty goldfoil cover stretch goal), and I've included some preview pages below for a taste of what will be in the book- they should enlargen when you click on them.